Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On Campus

As a quick aside, did anyone else notice that the stock video footage used on Glenn Beck's recent television segment concerning leftist intolerance on college campuses (i.e. Columbia and Emory) was of downtown Athens and UGA? You can read the transcript here.

Now that it has been in the news for a couple of days (I saw it first on Yahoo on Monday afternoon and it appeared on Nealz Nuze's Reading Assignments and in the Banner-Herald on Tuesday), this report concerning "dropout factories" reads like a profile of the Clarke County School District doesn't it? As one would suspect, school districts across the country that qualify as “dropout factories” are running for the tall grass and blasting the research and all involved.

And as if that is not bad enough, according to the Banner-Herald, a report from the National Women’s Law Center “found that 41 percent of Georgia's girls dropped out of school in 2003-4, ranking the state at the very bottom of the 43 states studied.”

And so it goes.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Bit Of Halloween Fun

In honor of All Saints Eve, here is a clip from Paramount Pictures' 1940 release, The Ghost Breakers:

The film starred Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, a very young Anthony Quinn, and an uncredited Robert Ryan. The clip, which I'm sure many of you have seen before, is all in good fun - so don’t get in a dither about it.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Impertinent Observations

Here is a story from about a week ago concerning the projected economic impact on Hall County of a Brenau University medical school (in the neighborhood of $100 million). Brenau already offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in nursing. I’m sure that officials at UGA have taken note with regard to redeveloping the NSCS property as a medical school.

Both Jim and Jason over at One Press Place think that the Commission wastes too much time on minutia and tries to micromanage staff far too much. Though their comments concern local government’s response to the ongoing drought, I’ve been making that same point in a more general way for how many years now?

My hometown SCHS Indians have moved up to #3 in the latest AJC AAA poll after beating Oconee County last Friday. Oddly enough, the various pages on the AJC site give the score as 45-0, though in reality the score was 49-28. Nonetheless, a win is a win. The Indians are idle this week; the team plays current AAA #9 Hart County on 02 November. Hart County plays Oconee County this week.

Finally, from what I hear former District 8 commissioner States McCarter sold his house in Cedar Creek a while back and relocated to Oconee County. Others may have known about this, but I found out only a few weeks ago. Though we differed strongly on a few issues, we agreed just as strongly on some others; I have the utmost respect for States and wish he and Jane well.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Uncle Heidi Wants You

The Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County is seeking applicants to the Library Board, the Board of Elections, the Construction Board of Appeals and the Industrial (Economic) Development Authority. Applications are due in the Clerk of Commission’s office by Friday, 09 November.

And in case you missed it elsewhere, the Grand Jury for the October 2007 Term of the Superior Court of Athens-Clarke County will be interviewing applicants for the Board of Tax Equalization. See the
notice in the Banner-Herald's classifieds.

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Impertinent Observations - Dawg Bye Week Edition

The election of members to the Public Service Commission is a bit strange. Though they are elected statewide, each represents one of five specific districts – a circumstance that can lead to conflict. Bobby Baker, the first Republican elected to a statewide constitutional office since Reconstruction back in 1992, represents District 2 and currently serves as PSC chairman. He is also the subject of a civil suit concerning his place of residence filed by Roger Dozier, a rival candidate for the District 2 seat Baker defeated back in 2004.

For his part, Baker denies that claim, citing vehicle registration, jury service, and a voting history in Clarke County. I’ve known Bobby for a few years now and have found him to be a thoughtful and perceptive fellow. For what it is worth, I know that he has attended a fair number of our local GOP functions – pretty impressive for a guy who supposedly doesn’t live here. And since we are dealing with residency issues, I just can’t resist: Keith Heard, call your office.

Athens’ own Ben Epps Airport is hosting an open house and air show from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. this Saturday, 20 October, in celebration of the centenary of Epps’ first flight . Featured events include tours, static displays, a skydiving demonstration, an R/C aircraft demonstration, and a series of acrobatic performances. Admission and parking are free.

Finally, welcome to the Drew Carey Project, courtesy of the folks at the Reason Foundation.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Neal Boortz To Speak At UGA

The self-described High Priest of the Church of the Painful Truth will speak at UGA on Monday, 05 November. According to the University Union, his topic will be “the upcoming election.” I’ve heard Boortz speak here before – and it should be good. Tickets at $1 for students and $6 for the general public. Specifics as to time and location remain to be announced. Thanks to the UGA College Republicans for the “heads up.”

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Impertinent Observations

Following up on some news articles and blog posts about potential challengers to Congressman John Barrow of Savannah, I am continually amazed at how politicians change their philosophy (and their places of residence) in order to stay in office. I well remember when Barrow was on the Athens-Clarke County Commission. Contrary to the current political iteration, he was not the least bit conservative back then; Barrow could be counted on to be in favor of pretty much every tax increase (in direct contradiction of his campaign rhetoric, he did vote to increase taxes any number of times – I guess it just depends on how Clintonesquely one defines “tax increase”), fee increase, restrictive ordinance, and big government initiative that came along (and that got the Unified Government successfully sued more than once – like rental registration and that attempted hostile takeover of the Hospital Authority). In fact, before he hit the big time, Barrow was the darling of Athens’ progressive set. I know, I know – we have always been at war with Oceania.

I finally got around to fleshing out the Blogroll with a bunch more links. Perceptive folks will notice that my “Policy & Think Tanks” links lean to the (mostly libertarian) right, my “News & Opinion” links cover the political spectrum, concentrating mostly on local and state sources, and my “Blogroll” links similarly cover the political spectrum, but include more left-leaning entries (but hey, thems the breaks in the blogosphere).

Also, I see that TOA comes in at #17 on BlogNet News’ current rankings of “Georgia’s Most Influential Political Blogs.” Such is old hat for many blogs, but it is a first for yours truly (as far as I know anyway). Remember – click early and click often.

The City of Winterville Police Department will hold its 2nd annual Fall Festival this coming Saturday, 20 October. The festival will be held in Pittard Park from 11:00 a.m. until to 3:00 p.m., complete with lots of activities for the kids. Later that evening, the Winterville Steering Committee will hold its final public event from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m., also in Pittard Park. The featured movie is Disney/Pixar’s CARS; refreshments will be provided. Call (706) 742-8600 for more information.

My hometown SCHS Indians remain at #5 in the AJC’s AAA poll. The team is 7-0 (3-0 in region 8AAA play) after a 51-21 victory over Monroe Area. The Indians play at Oconee County (3-3, 2-0) this coming Friday.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Impertinent Observations

Paul Begala, well known as a former advisor to Bill Clinton and from stints on CNN’s “Crossfire” and “The Situation Room,” will deliver a speech entitled “Politics 2008: Serious Business or Show Business for Ugly People?” at the Chapel on North Campus. The speech is scheduled is take place at 7:00 p.m. on 22 October. Admission is free and open to the public.

Here is how one cheesehead community is adjusting to life with a new traffic roundabout (and why can’t I get that damned RATT song out of my head?).

My hometown SCHS Indians dropped from #4 to #5 in the AJC’s latest AAA poll, despite being 6-0 after posting a 14-3 victory over Franklin County last week. 8AAA opponent Monroe Area travels to The Reservation this coming Friday.

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The Regulators

The point of this litany is to demonstrate that the Unified Government's tendency to over-regulate pretty much any issue with which it comes into contact shows no sign of abating. Without much comment on the various proposals themselves, here is a rundown of items being tossed about by the Athens-Clarke County Commission:

• Installing speed cameras in residential neighborhoods and making going 5 miles per hour over the posted speed limit a ticketable offense (sounds like a cash cow for local government to me).

• Limiting the size of medical offices on Prince Avenue to 10,000 square feet (health related business is one of the few areas that actually show promise for economic development in this town, so why preclude much needed development - because of rampant NIMBYism, that is why).

• In a couple of drought-related proposals (scroll down to Late & Loopy), one would require that gray-water recycling systems in installed in all new homes built in the county and the other would impose permanent “conservation pricing” on the users of the Unified Government’s water system (look – I’m not against saving water in a drought situation, but do we really need more government mandates that will make it more expensive to live here; this kind of stuff is why we don’t have that affordable housing everyone says that we want in the first place).

• And just for good measure, there is a call to lower the county-wide speed limit to 35 miles per hour.

The problem is not that the commissioners ask questions or reflect the concerns of their constituents. Rather, in any given situation, the Commission can be counted on to pass the most restrictive, expensive, and collectivist ordinance it can devise. Even to the point of tossing out all of the prepared options on the agenda (you know, the ones on which staff has provided briefing materials and that the Commission has discussed in previous meetings) and drafting ordinances "on the fly" in the middle of a voting session and rushing them to a vote - while fully admitting that they are vague and that the details will have to be figured out later on. And yes, it has happened..

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Friday, October 5, 2007

Impertinent Observations

Next week, the Clarke County School District is going to increase its 2007-2008 budget by almost $695,000 (see agenda item 3 under New Business). By the end of the academic year, that originally proposed $117.5 million budget, which grew to $118.3 million over the course of the budget adoption process, will be but a dim memory.

Also, the “co-conveners” of OneAthens, the successor organization to the Partners for a Prosperous Athens, are being asked to keep the group financially afloat through the end of the current fiscal year. According to agenda item 6 under New Business, “UGA has responded with monetary and financial support; Athens-Clarke County, which previously provided $50,000, is considering providing additional funds in the neighborhood of $15,000.” The plan is for the CCSD to kick in another $5000. Does OneAthens' continuing appetite for tax money come as a surprise to anyone?

From the Heartland Institute’s “unofficial blog,” via the the GPPF’s Friday Facts, is yet more evidence that so-called “smart growth” policies are, in fact, directly responsible for the lack of affordable housing that typically plagues “progressive” municipalities. See the associated PDFs from Demographia here, and here.

And on a completely unrelated note, kudos to these students for joining, and to Cedar Shoals High School for supporting, a riflery team. I was an avid shooter back in the day, routinely participating in NRA Bullseye, IDPA, and GSSF competitions. I also worked as a volunteer range officer at the old 10th Congressional District Law Enforcement Match for several years, competing on the POST certification course in the RO category. I wish the team the best.

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Thursday, October 4, 2007

And The Hits Just Keep On Coming

The latest in a long series of development moratoria adopted by the Athens-Clarke County Commission aggravates the Hell out of me on two points.

The first is that it continues the distressing habit of governing via development moratoria the Commission has employed over the past several years – frequently with little to no advance notice. The Commission approved the moratorium on Tuesday – after it was added to that body’s voting session agenda only the day before. The particulars of the moratorium aside, this practice is not good government (an argument I have been making for just as many years – to no avail whatsoever). It renders our current zoning and development ordinances completely meaningless, as they are routinely suspended with virtually no public input – and invariably for the purpose of rewriting them so as to be far more restrictive.

The second concerns the moratorium itself which, in Blake's words, bans “tearing down or moving buildings on South Milledge Avenue” for a period of six months and is primarily aimed at fraternity and sorority houses, several of which had plans to alter, expand, or move their structures. For those who may have forgotten, this is the second moratorium aimed directly at UGA's Greek community. I am not against historic preservation (of meaningfully historic structures as opposed to that of any building that just happens to be old), but the manner in which the Commission routinely tramples private property rights in favor of collective rights alarms me greatly.

In other news, the Commission has already told residents to expect a millage rate increase and now comes another call for increasing local taxes (because, or course, the Unified Government’s spending is hopelessly out of control).

Our betters claim that they have actually lowered property taxes twice since city-county unification. I disagree. See this post from June in which I offer a differing perspective.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Impertinent Observations

I just returned to the office from lunch at “The V.” While there, I ran into Blake Aued, whose work appears frequently on this blog, and David Ballard, chairman of the UGA College Republicans. Both were there for a campaign event featuring one of Mitt Romney’s sons, Ben (in differing capacities, of course). The “Mitt Mobile” rolled into the parking lot even as I was leaving; my presence was not by design – I just happened to have a craving for The V’s chili dogs

My hometown SCHS Indians are still at #4 in the AJC’s class AAA rankings. So far, the team has defeated Seneca, SC (about which I know absolutely nothing), AAAA # 9 Habersham Central, AAAA Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, AA # 10 Dublin, and region 8AAA opponent Apalachee. Up next is 8AAA foe Franklin County in Carnesville.

President Bush vetoed the SCHIP bill. The attempted expansion of a health insurance program, originally designed to help poor children, to include a multitude of people who are neither (and at appreciable expense, no less) was an idea that should have been vetoed. I just wish that W had started exercising his veto pen years ago.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Various commentators in the local press and blogosphere have posed rhetorical questions concerning the attitudes of many of Athens’ citizens on the desirability of residential, commercial, and/or industrial development. With the caveat that I agree that we should not accept just anything, the answer from far too many in our community is not just NO!, but HELL, NO! about pretty much every conceivable form of development.

Quoting verbatim from a message that went out on the Historic Boulevard Neighborhood newsgroup on Yahoo last week (emphasis in original):

“The loveliest spot in town -- the rolling fields of South Milledge -- may soon be the site of a high-security and high-risk lab (called "NBAF," the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility) ---- unless YOU act to voice your opposition and concerns.

Scientists at the site would research highly contagious agents (mostly those that currently infect only animals) for which there is no cure. The facility would be RUN BY HOMELAND SECURITY. And it would be the size of 5 WALMARTS.

That much impervious surface area is a terrible threat to the Oconee River, which is nearby and downhill from the proposed site.

The facility would need about 75 THOUSAND GALLONS of water EACH DAY.

You have to act fast!”

Though I do not doubt the sincerity of the sentiment, I do question the nature of the rhetoric. And if Pete has his way, these self-appointed protectors of our community will continue to torpedo any such bio-tech development efforts.

This sentiment would seem to be in line with most of the letters to the Banner-Herald’s editor, which are running heavily against locating the NBAF facility in Athens. See here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The reasons given for opposing NBAF are legion: it will release dangerous pathogens into the community, it will use too much water, it will destroy the hallowed Greenbelt, it will increase traffic, it will make Athens a target for terrorists, blah, blah blah.

For comments in the local blogosphere, see Blake’s entries here, here, here, and here, as well as at Safe As Houses, and Athens Chat.

It seems that I frequently disagree with Banner-Herald editorial editor Jim Thompson these days, but he is right on the money with this one. Jim quotes Doc Eldridge, former Athens Mayor and current president of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, as asking, “If not this, then what?” It is a damn good question that too many in our fair city cannot (or will not) address. Our community has spent years positioning itself as a would-be bio-tech center – apparently for naught.

Of course, opposition to a new industry should come as no surprise, given that we routinely oppose the operation or expansion of existing industries (i.e., CertainTeed and Nakanishi Manufacturing). We tell them that, even though your current operations and planned expansions are in full compliance with federal EPA and state EDP regulations, we still don’t want you. And then we wonder why we cannot lure other manufacturers to our fair city.

In non-NBAF NIMBY/BANANA news, we have opposition to expanding our landfill despite the fact that it is running out of space, taking yet more projected sewer lines out of the Public Utilities Service Delivery Plan so as to discourage development, shelving most of the recommendations of that $50,000 study designed to alleviate traffic on the eastside for fear of increasing said traffic, and halting development on Milledge Avenue due to historic preservation concerns.

Finally, this one is not about NBAF or NIMBYs, but it does concern economic development. It appears that yet another potential taker has passed on the Orkin Tract. This time it was Solvay Pharmaceuticals. I’ve lost count of haw many other industries have done likewise.

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